The Best of Swish Appeal: 12 of our top stories from 2012

Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

The Swish Appeal team has selected some its most discussed and widely shared stories of 2012 from our NCAA, WNBA, Olympics, and youth basketball content, which also just so happens to paint a picture of the year that was.

When SB Nation requested that each site in this gigantic network submit nominations for the best longreads of the year, the Swish Appeal team set about scouring the site's archives to select the best of what we have to offer.

You can click here to see that list of longreads from around the SBN-NBA network (which we're officially a part of), including those selected from Swish Appeal's archives. But in the process of our team looking around the site for the best from each person's perspective, we also ended up with a list of articles that we decided to turn into Swish Appeal's Best of 2012.

thewiz06 has already set up a thread of our most popular memes (click here), but the following is that list of selections from our team as well as a few additional ones based on obviously objective measures like rec's, Facebook likes, retweets, and traffic.

Without further ado, our look back at 2012 broken down by the range of content our team has created: NCAA, WNBA, Olympics, and youth basketball as well as the best of the community-generated content in the fan post and fan shot sections. Links in the headers will take you to the section specified so you can see the latest of what we've written.

NCAA

"Stanford's Nneka Ogwumike: 'I would have rather gone down with my team than up with any other team.'" by Jessica Lantz

Jessica Lantz was one of our two representatives at the NCAA women's basketball Final Four this year and she put together a feature profiling former Stanford Cardinal forward Nneka Ogwumike's feelings about the final game of her collegiate career. Ogwumike might have been one of the best power forward prospects ever to enter the WNBA Draft, was the easy choice for the top pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft, and an equally easy choice for 2012 WNBA Rookie of the Year. Though she fell just short of playing in the championship game for either the NCAA or WNBA, 2012 was a banner year for the talented post player who has a bright future ahead of her.

"The End Is Nigh... And It's Been A Blast" by Queenie

Queenie tucked this one away in the fan posts section, but as she's an official member of the team it can be highlighted as one of our NCAA posts.

While most of Queenie's Game Notes of Doom involve her expressing her reactions to her favorite teams in ways that only a New Yorker can, this piece was an extended, "...thank you for the most astonishing season I've experienced as a St. John's fan, maybe even as a basketball fan, full stop." Worth a read for those who have followed Queenie's writing about the Red Storm and New York Liberty since the beginning of Swish Appeal.

"Reflecting on the Top 100 list: What makes a great women's basketball program?" by James Bowman

For each of the last couple of years, James has done his top 100 NCAA women's basketball programs list, which generates a lot of discussion but also quite a bit of disagreement. After this year's edition, a coach who requested anonymity contacted James to help him reflect on the criteria for what makes a great women's basketball program. While establishing the criteria for an undertaking like that will always be a work-in-progress, the opportunity to get highlight from someone actually involved in college basketball was definitely a highlight of the year.

WNBA

"In Awe Of Seimone Augustus' Creativity" by Nate Parham

Back in June, SB Nation requested that we write about our favorite highlight and it was a Seimone Augustus crossover from earlier that both struck me and inspired me to put together a piece that had been floating around my mind about one of the best scorers not just in the WNBA or women's basketball but U.S. professional basketball anywhere.

Although the Minnesota Lynx fell short of the WNBA title this year, this ended up being a significant year for Augustus individually as she was named to the All-WNBA first team for the first time in her career, selected as the Grand Marshal for the Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade, and got engaged to her longtime girlfriend. That I am so in awe of her creativity is thus really insignificant to her year.

"The WNBA and How Leagues Survive" by James Bowman

This is yet another case of one of our authors expressing themselves in a fan post and doing so well. James' piece about the factors that help a league survive ended up being one of the most commented upon fan posts of the year.

With fans worried about the state of the Tulsa Shock and the Washington Mystics, attendance numbers, and whether a certain team was "tanking", James' piece attempted to add some perspective about what really matters when assessing the health of the league.

"The state of the WNBA: 2012 edition" by James Bowman

No, we haven't merely become victims of presentism: James' article about the state of the WNBA actually comes as one of the most highly recommended WNBA articles of the year by our community. A popular topic of discussion every year among women's basketball fans, James laid out the various scenarios that may influence the league in 2013. It's a nice complement to the previous piece about how leagues survive.

Olympics & youth basketball

"Brittney Griner's Olympic Decision Should Be Respected, Not Rejected" by Jessica Lantz

By any standard, Brittney Griner had a phenomenal year in 2012. In short, she led her Baylor Lady Bears team to an undefeated season and has become a mainstream women's basketball superstar before even leaving college, which is significant for both her individually and for the WNBA.

However, that this was our most consistently trafficked articles of the year is sort of troubling.

Unfortunately, this article makes the list for the seemingly constant controversy surrounding Griner: any time Griner has - or hasn't - played since this article was published, people find it with search phrases such as "Brittney Griner man" or "Is Brittney Griner a man?" The article was published as a response to that phenomenon and regardless of your position on that, it's a shame that this sort of discussion off the court has followed Griner even as she was making history on the court.

"Mercedes Russell: The humble superstar" by M Robinson

This piece about Mercedes Russell prior to her choosing to play for the Tennessee Lady Vols was among our more popular pieces on Facebook and the message boards, not because it announced a decision but because it addresses Russell's humility throughout her recruiting process.

The subplot of this piece is how Russell managed to rise above all of the elements that taint college recruiting these days, which include adults trying to influence the decisions of high school players for personal gain.

"Pink Whistle: A former coach remembers a special player" by Ray Floriani

Ray's pieces documenting his experiences officiating youth basketball games around New Jersey don't always make the most noise, but this piece in particular stands out in how it discusses Tina Charles' path from a player who lacked the fire to be selected for an AAU tournament as a kid but progressed to an Olympian and 2012 WNBA MVP award winner. It's a nice story not only about Charles, but also the kind of people that Ray encounters still supporting the development of the game at the girls basketball level.

Fan Posts

'Lady' Names In Women's Basketball: Outdated Labels or Unique Monikers? by 3rin

Although it fell just short of most commented upon honors, one of the more active discussions earlier in the year was the matter of "Lady" names in women's basketball, which listed 68 women's athletics programs that feature the "Lady" modifier for their mascot while the men's teams have no gender label (and included a handy map that details the geographical distribution of the phenomenon).

3rin asks, "What is your position on the Lady Teams phenomenon?" and though there was by no means any consensus on the matter, it was one of the more active discussions of the year among the community.

"Three things the WNBA could do better" by pilight

The most highly recommended fan post of the year was pilight's look at things the WNBA could do better, which included eliminating the lottery, changing the schedule, and accommodating injuries, all - incidentally - things that came to define the 2012 WNBA season in one way or another.

The team with the worst record ended up losing the lottery, the Olympics and national team commitments ended up affecting a few teams' top players, and there were a number of injuries that affected the outcome of the season, whether of the season-ending variety or those that limited playing time.

"The Mystics Are Meddling In The Wrong Direction, And They Need To Make A Change" by thewiz06

It's impossible to even discuss fan posts without mentioning thewiz06 Manifesto, in which he detailed what the Mystics have done wrong and how they should approach turning things around. This was sort of a precursor to the formal manifesto, but noteworthy in that it came after just four games and ended up being the talking points that defined nearly the entire Mystics' season.

What were your top stories from 2012?

Obviously, this wasn't an exhaustive list and doesn't even cover all of the biggest stories of the year - the Indiana Fever beating the Minnesota Lynx and star forward Tamika Catchings getting her first WNBA title being the most notable "omission". So feel free to drop either your favorite Swish Appeal stories or thoughts on the biggest women's basketball stories in general from 2012 in the comments.

It was a fun year and we're looking forward to more in 2013.

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